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Everything You Need To Know About Periodontal Diseases

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Most people know very little about periodontal disease. For the most part, it is a silent disease that causes no pain and often goes undetected until significant damage has been done.

This article explains everything you need to know about periodontal disease, including who's at risk and available treatment options.

What Is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the gums and bones supporting your teeth. It's usually caused by plaque, a sticky coat of food debris, bacteria, and saliva. If plaque isn't removed, it turns into tartar, which is much harder to remove.

Plaque and tartar irritate your gums, causing them to become red, swollen, and tender (gingivitis). If gingivitis isn't treated, it can lead to periodontitis.

Anyone can get periodontal disease, but some people are at greater risk than others. You may be at a higher risk if you:

  • Smoke
  • Have diabetes
  • Have a family history of periodontal disease
  • Take medications that cause dry mouth or reduce the flow of saliva

If you're at risk of periodontal disease, your dentist may recommend more frequent checkups. They could also remove plaque and tartar from your teeth at each visit.

How to Treat Periodontal Disease

If you have periodontitis, your treatment will depend on the severity of your condition. In some cases, deep cleaning below the gum line may be all that's needed. This procedure is called scaling and root planing.

Scaling involves removing tartar and plaque from above and below the gumline. Root planing smooths out the rough spots on teeth roots, which helps to remove bacteria and reduce inflammation. The procedures can be done separately or together, depending on the severity of the periodontal disease.

Scaling and root planing are often the first line of treatment for periodontal disease. But more aggressive treatments may be necessary if the disease progresses.

If your periodontitis is more severe, you may need surgery to clean the infected areas. Your dentist might recommend a procedure called flap surgery (osseous surgery). During this procedure, your dentist will lift back the gum tissue and remove the tartar buildup. Afterward, they'll smooth out any rough spots on your tooth root where bacteria can hide and replace the gum tissue.

Surgical intervention may also be necessary if you have periodontitis and your teeth have started to loosen. In this case, your dentist may recommend a procedure called bone grafting. This treatment involves using artificial or natural bone to replace bone damaged by periodontitis.

Another surgical procedure, called soft tissue grafting, may be needed to treat periodontitis. This procedure is done to cover exposed tooth roots with new tissue. The new tissue may be taken from another area of your mouth (autograft) or from a donor (allograft).

After any periodontal surgery, keep your teeth and gums clean. You may need to clean your teeth more often than the average person. Your dentist may also recommend additional treatments to help control the infection.